thenerdreports

reporting all things bookish

Archive for the tag “Summer reading”

Summer Reading Challenge 2012…the countdown is on!

Well, there is a little over a week left until the end of my Summer Reading Challenge, and I thought it was time for a progress report. Those that are crossed off have been completed. Those in bold are in progress.

1. One Book Recommended By A Friend Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2. One Book That Has Been Sitting On Your Shelf For Over A Year The Shack by Paul W. Young
3. One Book You Read A Long Time Ago And Want To ReRead Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. One Book From Your To Be Read List The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
5. One Book You’ve Never Heard Of On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmagard Hunt
6. One Classic All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
7. One Book You Started But Never Finished Emma by Jane Austen
8. One New Release Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by AJ Jacobs
9. One Book That Is Outside of Your Typical Genre Poetry and Prose by Walt Whitman
10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I feel fairly confident that I can finish The Secret Life of Bees and Emma before Labor Day, but I admit, I am feeling less confident about being able to complete a monster volume of Whitman poetry, Gilead, The Shack, and a re-read of Sense & Sensibility before the end of next week. It’s just not terribly realistic of me to even try…and its doubtful I would even enjoy the books if I did.
Regardless of how things end up, I did learn some things by participating in the challenge. While I don’t consider these a justification or substitute for the fact I didn’t finish, they are still worth mentioning.
I tend to read in topical groups or series. This summer, after reading All Quiet on the Western Front, I couldn’t help but delve further into literature and history on World War I.  Although I took a course on European History in high school,  I learned very little on World War I in school, or even graduate school, in spite of the fact it would set things up for World War II would would shape modern history around the globe. It seemed that something was missing in my knowledge base, so it prompted me to read everything I can get my hands on in order to fix that.
I’ve also noticed I like series. It helps me know what’s next on my reading list and keeps things orderly.
If I am reluctant to read something, little will change my desire to read it…even posting it on a blog. I have had little to no desire to read The Shack, no many how times its been recommended to me. I even own a copy (it was a gift) and I can’t bring myself to read it. Honestly, I’ve glimpsed at it and its hard to get past the writing. I want to give it a chance…but I can’t when there is so many other things to read!
It’s easy for me to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to books. As soon as review copies started coming in, and I was getting new paperbacks from Paperbackswap.com, and I was let loose in the library…well… let’s just say it all went downhill from there.
Although I refuse to give up hope just yet, I realistically report that I may not finish my Summer Reading Challenge. Check back on September 4th to check on the final reading stats.

Review: Anna Karenina

I originally started Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy in 2004 when it was taken up by Oprah’s Book Club. It was the only book I ever picked up for Oprah’s Book Club, and I didn’t get far before I decided it would be better to quit. Anna Karenina moved with me from my parent’s house, to my first apartment in Baltimore, back to their house, and later, to New York where it would be packed and unpacked, all the while collecting dust between moves. Until this summer when I decided I needed to finish it.

When I stumbled onto Five Alarm Book Reviews Anna Karenina Read Along for July, I decided I had found the perfect solution, something to keep me motivated, and an opportunity to discuss the rather thick tome. What I did not anticipate, however, is how easy it would be to fall behind. Mid-July I got behind on my reading, and never recovered, but these last  two weeks, I found myself determined to finish.

Tolstoy is a story teller, and a wildly ambitious one. The Russian novelist creates an obscene number of characters for his eight part epic novel, all with overlapping lives, and formal and informal names. It was necessary for the first half of the book to pay close attention to character names and nicknames.

The novel begins,

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It is an appropriate opening line, as Tolstoy unfolds the story of three families, each unhappy in its own unique way- Dolly and Stiva as they deal with his infidelity, Anna and Karenin as they deal with her unfaithfulness and her continued relationship with Vronsky, and Kitty and Levin, as they navigate what was a difficult start for both of them as they seem surrounded by infidelity. The backdrop of this magnificently complicated series of stories is the changing political climate of Russia, Tolstoy’s own thoughts on religion, and Europe’s art and culture scene.

In spite of it all, I found myself drawn into Tolstoy’s storytelling, wanting to see how things played out in each of the character’s lives. Would Karenin allow the divorce? Would Anna continue to manipulate Vronsky, and everyone around her? Would Levin and Kitty live happily ever after? I had to know. And though I found myself bored at times, such as when the perspective would turn to Levin whose primary internal monologue involved farming, or when the political discussions took on too many references that I was unfamiliar with, I still read on.

Tolstoy draws the reader in with his narrative arc and complex characters. He changes the perspective and internal monologues the reader observes, giving a fuller picture of the characters relationships and interactions. And he builds the novel to such a climax and holds it that you really start to wonder if anything is going to happen. When Anna does finally take action, it was nearly impossible to believe.

Although I may not have always enjoyed the characters and found myself bored as Tolstoy sought to make a point I really didn’t care about, Anna Karenina is without an amazing piece of literature. I admire Tolstoy’s boldness and his use of narrative and change in perspective in adding depth to the story and characters.

Review: On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood

As I was preparing my Summer Reading Challenge list, one of the books that I had seen listed on another blog was On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood by Irmgard Hunt. I found myself intrigued by the title, and added it to my list, and this past weekend, I had the opportunity to finish it.

According to Goodreads, “Growing up in the beautiful mountains of Berchtesgaden — just steps from Adolf Hitler’s alpine retreat — Irmgard Hunt had a seemingly happy, simple childhood. In her powerful, illuminating, and sometimes frightening memoir, Hunt recounts a youth lived under an evil but persuasive leader. As she grew older, the harsh reality of war — and a few brave adults who opposed the Nazi regime — aroused in her skepticism of National Socialist ideology and the Nazi propaganda she was taught to believe in.

In May 1945, an eleven-year-old Hunt watched American troops occupy Hitler’s mountain retreat, signaling the end of the Nazi dictatorship and World War II. As the Nazi crimes began to be accounted for, many Germans tried to deny the truth of what had occurred; Hunt, in contrast, was determined to know and face the facts of her country’s criminal past.”

Hunt’s memoir goes beyond simply a recollection of the events of her childhood, it also attempts to analyze and reconcile them, as well as distance the person she is from the atrocities of war. Raised in a home where both parents had seen and experienced in the devastation of World War I, her parents eagerly embraced the ideology of Hitler. Hunt joined the Bund Deutscher Mädel (The League of German Girls) and supported the war effort. She and her family went hungry, were forced to loot and scrounge for food, and feared the oppression of the U.S. Troops as they rolled in.
As the atrocities of war came out, Hunt found herself uncomfortable with the acts that had been committed, and was appalled by the acceptance of some and denial by others.

This theme- her reactions to the horrors of World War II committed by Germany, carries through to the end of the book. She is clear that while she was raised in Nazi Germany, she does not support the atrocities committed, nor the ideologies behind them.

Its the first time I’ve ever read a memoir of World War II from the perspective of a German who was not persecuted by the Nazi Regime, and it was certainly an interesting change of perspective. I think what struck me, particularly at the end, was how hard Hunt was working to convince her readers that she was not a Nazi for having grown up in Germany during the war. Her memoir is powerful, but instead of allowing her memories to speak for themselves, she felt the need to defend them. To some extent I understand, but it also seemed to take away from all that she said, which is why I give the book three stars.

Weekend Recap: Readathons and exciting arrivals

I originally envisioned this past weekend as a time to get a fair amount of work done around the house. But when I got home from work on Friday, I realized how exhausted I was from the week and the house was empty and quiet. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted a completely different plan for my weekend.

I had been considering a readathon to tackle my increasingly lengthy to be read pile from my Summer Reading Challenge, my Summer Reading booklist, and my library loot for this week, but in reviewing my calendar, I realized it was an impossibility- my schedule is incredibly full and I wasn’t going to be able to devote much time to it. So, instead, I ventured on Friday and Saturday to have my own mini readathon. I was able to read ahead just a bit for my Anna Karenina read-along, and I fully completed two books: Death Comes to Pemberley and How to Love An American Man: A True Story. I loved being able to conquer some of the TBR pile, and it was relaxing to simply spend time reading, something that feels delightfully decadent to me.

Sunday, was much less calm, and involved absolutely no reading. I had been asked by a good friend, L. to be one of her on-call people to watch her son H. when she was going to the hospital to give birth to Little J. So, at 5:29am on Sunday, I received the call from L. that I needed to get over to her house because Little J. was preparing for his appearance.

Around 11:28am, Little J. made his appearance to the world. After spending the day with Little J.’s big brother, H. we were able to meet Little J. It was an honor to be on call for my friends in anticipation of the arrival of their second son, to babysit their oldest, and to meet their newest little one only hours after he was born. And seeing big brother meet little brother is an experience I will never, ever forget. 🙂

Congratulations L., R., & H. on the arrival of Little J.! So excited for you all!

Library Loot July 11-17

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the link on Marg’s page any time during the week.

I keep promising myself that, really, this week is it, next week, I won’t request quite so many books from the library- I’ll just work on completing my to-be-read pile from last week’s library visit, as well as the to-be-read books from my Summer Reading Challenge list. And then I request a few more…sigh. Clearly, I have a problem.This week, to add insult to injury, not only did I pick up my reserve items, but I also had the audacity to choose a book off of the seven day express shelf. What was I thinking?!

But without any further whining, or justification for my reading (and borrowing) habit, this week’s loot:

How to Love An American Man: A True Story by Kristine Gasbarre

I read a review of this book at some point in the last couple of weeks, and as it is a memoir, and just looked interesting, I couldn’t help reserving it. (In case you haven’t noticed, I kind of have a thing for memoirs and biographies. I love stories of any variety, but I am particularly drawn to real life stories.)

Closing Time by Joe Queenan

Joe Queenan’s autobiography on growing up in Philadelphia in the 1960’s.

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo

This is the first book in a series set in Rural Ohio Amish farm country. Kate Burkeholder returns to Painters Mill, OH to become the Chief of Police in the town she grew up in. The opportunity to brings her to her home and proves somewhat dangerous as parts of her past are revealed, and secrets long kept are unhidden.

I saw a review of  the third in the series on http://www.5minutesforbooks.com and was intrigued enough to pick up the first in the series.

My final pick in this week’s loot is my impulse borrow- Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. Last September I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and straight on its heels, discovered an intolerance to corn. For those unfamiliar Celiac is an autoimmune disorder whereby eating gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye causes an immune system reaction in the small intestine. In me, it was also another factor that was aggravating my asthma.

Wheat Belly, however, is not about Celiac. It’s about the gluten-free diet that is fashionable these days in hip towns like mine, and big cities. Admittedly, the trend annoys me, even as it makes things more available for people like me who refrain from gluten for a good reason. I picked up the book not to make fun of the diet, but to see if I could find out why it is just so appealing. And hey, maybe there will be a fun recipe or two.

My plan tonight is to curl up with my loot for a few weeks ago- Death Comes to Pemberley, a nice cup of decaf earl grey, and some homemade leftover rice pudding. Enjoy this weeks reading, and be sure to check out the loot on other blogs!

Anna Karenina Read Along Part 1 and 2

I admit, I struggled a bit with Anna Karenina at first.  The opening line is a doozy, and puts us right in the middle of the drama.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Whoa! Alrighty then Count Tolstoy. In spite of my initial misgivings, I have been thoroughly enveloped by the story. Now I want to see what’s happening between Anna and her husband, to see whether or not Levin will man up a bit and pursue Kitty, or if Oblonsky will ever stop being a twit. There is ALOT of story here. And I will confess, it is occasionally a challenge trying to follow all the characters with thier multiple names and deeply intertwined lives, but its worth it.

Tolstoy has this way of revealing the character’s inner thoughts which adds an unexpected depth to the story, and to the character. Without the thoughts of Karenina he would seem a very one note character, but because we see what he is thinking and feeling, he doesn’t seem as out of the know or as uncaring as Anna would have us believe.

As much as I have become enveloped in the story, I continue to have my reservations. Tolstory seems to have a very dark outlook on things (think back to the opening line) and honestly, there are parts of Russian society I don’t understand. Are discreet affairs okay among the aristocracy but obvious ones unacceptable? Why is any affair acceptable?

The timing is clearly pre-Revolution, but is the Revolution beginning to build at this point among the peasants? What is the point of the zemstvo that Levin refuses to be involved in? So many questions…but I suppose I’ll just need to read on to see if Tolstoy answers any of my questions.

Library Loot July 4-10

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (this week at The Captive Reader) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

This week, I went to the library on Tuesday night before heading home for my roommate’s birthday dinner. With Anna Karenina on my plate and a rather lengthy list of summer reads, you’d think I’d have enough sense to limit the number of books I am taking out from the library or placing on reserve, but not so much. So… this week’s library loot:

All That I Am by Anna Funder

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead

Keepsake: A Novel by Kristina Riggle

Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

I happened to read the review of Between You and Me over at 5 Minutes for Books the other day, and was intrigued by it. Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus wrote The Nanny Diaries, which I loved and I was interested partially because I thought this novel would be something in the vein. I started it last night, and its really not. I didn’t get particularly far before I decided to take this one back and request it at a later date. It may be interesting, but when I have so many books to read, it didn’t capture my attention quite enough to stay on the shelf.

The final two books on my reserve list are art books. In case you weren’t able to ascertain this in my weekend recap this past Monday, I LOVE art. The first of these books is about my beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art- Rogue’s Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayal That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Michael Gross.

The second of these books is The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick which tells the story of the theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream from Norway’s National Art Museum in 1994, and the hunt that followed.

Last summer, I read The Forger’s Spell, also by Dolnick which I found captivating. The world of art crime is certainly one of intrigue, and Edward Dolnick does an incredibly good job of telling it stories. I started The Rescue Artist last night and am already 38 pages in. I have the feeling I’ll be finishing this one rather quickly. 🙂

How about you? Have you picked up anything from the library this week that you’ve enjoyed?

Library Loot June 27-July 3

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (located this week at The Adventures of an Intrepid reader) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Last night after my walk around the local high school track with a friend, I moved onto my errands, one of which was a stop at the library to return a few things and to pick up a reserve item. I am trying to minimize what I take out from the library right now- not because I don’t love the services of my local library, but because my Summer Reading List and Summer Reading Challenge Lists are primarily composed of books that I own, and if I hope to finish both lists by Labor Day, I need to read mainly off the lists. But…because reading is also fun, and because I just love finding new books, I find myself in the library once a week to either browse the incoming books or pick up a reserve item.

Here’s this weeks loot:

On the Outside Looking Indian: How my Second Childhood Changed My Life by Rupinder Gill

“Rupinder Gill was raised under the strict rules of her parents’ Indian upbringing. While her friends were practicing their pliés, having slumber parties, and spending their summers at camp, Rupinder was cleaning, babysitting her siblings, and watching hours on end of American television. But at age 30, Rupinder realized how much she regretted her lack of childhood adventure.

Stepping away from an orderly life of tradition, Rupinder set put to finally experience the things she missed out on. From learning to swim and taking dance lessons, to going to Disney World, her growing to-do list soon became the ultimate trip down non-memory lane. What began as a desire to experience all that had been denied to her leads to a discovery of what it means to be happy, and the important lessons that are learned when we are at play.” From Amazon.com 

Admittedly, I tend toward true life tales like this one, but I am interested in how Gill chooses to form her second childhood and the impact it has.

My second book was actually one a friend recommended- Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. By all accounts, P.D. James is an amazing mystery writer, and this particular work, incorporating some of my favorite Jane Austen characters displays a rare genius. I’m looking forward to this interesting spin on Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.

 

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina Read Along Announcement

The chunkster on my Summer Reading Challenge (see post here: https://thenerdreports.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/summer-reading-challenges/) is Anna Karenina, a rather daunting read I attempted a few years ago. I was trying to figure out how I was going to tackle this one when I was on the Five Alarm Book Reviews blog and noticed an announcement for an Anna Karenina Read Along in July (see post here: http://fivealarmbookreviews.com/2012/06/12/anna-karenina-announcement-and-sign-ups/).

According to Steph over at Five Alarm, here’s how it works:

“This is summer, so we are keeping it fun and easy.  There will not be any official questions, although I will post some each week if you would like to use them for conversation starters.  We will each write up our thoughts on the book on the scheduled dates and link up.  If you link up within a few days of the scheduled date, that is fine too.”

You DO NOT have to be a blogger to participate.  You can sign up by using a link to where you will be posting.  ie: Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.

We will use the hashtag #ReadingAnnaKarenina on Twitter.

Post and Readding Schedule

Start Up Post/Announcement Post – Now through July 1

1st Post for Parts 1 and 2 – July 7

2nd Post  for Parts 3 and 4- July 14

3rd Post  for Parts 5 and 6- July 21

4th  For Parts 7 and 8- July 28

Final Review – July 31

So…be prepared to follow along as I, and others, work through Anna Karenina together. Please feel free to join- I would love for all of you to be reading along!

Summer Reading Challenges

I’ve been looking for awhile for my library to launch their summer reading program, but apparently I am moving a bit ahead of them on this one. In the past, I can’t say its been an impressive thing- the last few years it has pretty much consisted of reading books, and then reviewing them. Prize winners are randomly selected from the reviews, so the more reviews, the more chances you’ll win a prize. Interesting, but not really challenging, especially for someone who reads so regularly.

In my blog reading this morning, I came across Kate’s Book Club and her Summer Reading Challenge- http://katesbookclub.blogspot.com/2012/06/summer-reading_01.html . (The original post I was reading, by the way, was http://readfromatoz.blogspot.com/2012/06/blog-post.html) Talk about an exciting find! So… without further adieu, here’s the challenge:

1. One Book Recommended By A Friend.
2. One Book That Has Been Sitting On Your Shelf For Over A Year.
3. One Book You Read A Long Time Ago And Want To ReRead.
4. One Book From Your To Be Read List.
5. One Book You’ve Never Heard Of.
6. One Classic.
7. One Book You Started But Never Finished.
8. One New Release.
9. One Book That Is Outside of Your Typical Genre.
10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages).
I am going to give it a shot…want to try it with me? I am going to post the list again below, and list my book in italics. I will cross each book off as I complete it, so be sure to check back in to see how I am doing. Since I consider the end of summer Labor Day, my deadline is September 3, 2012.
Here’s what I am thinking about using for the challenge:
1. One Book Recommended By A Friend Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2. One Book That Has Been Sitting On Your Shelf For Over A Year The Shack by Paul W. Young
3. One Book You Read A Long Time Ago And Want To ReRead Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. One Book From Your To Be Read List The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
5. One Book You’ve Never Heard Of On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmagard Hunt
6. One Classic All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
7. One Book You Started But Never Finished Emma by Jane Austen
8. One New Release Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by AJ Jacobs
9. One Book That Is Outside of Your Typical Genre Poetry and Prose by Walt Whitman
10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

Post Navigation